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  • It's Alive

    Parchment worms are best pinched in the dark

    Oh go ahead. Squeeze the soft tube of a parchment worm. But gently.

    If it’s dark, “you will see puffs of blue mucus come out,” says Dimitri Deheyn. And the blue is glowing.

    How the ocean-dwelling Chaetopterus parchment worms create the long-lasting glow — and the soft-but-tough tubes themselves — are still substantial mysteries, Deheyn says. 

    Parchment worms spend their adult...

    07/28/2014 - 08:40 Animals, Biophysics, Physiology
  • Reviews & Previews

    Book delves into Scientific Revolution way beyond Galileo

    Voyaging in Strange SeasDavid KnightYale Univ., $35

    It would take longer to count all the books that have been written about the history of science than it would to read any one of them. So if you’ve read some of them, you might wonder whether it’s worth reading yet another.

    It is. Knight’s fresh look at the Scientific Revolution tells the story of modern science’s...

    07/27/2014 - 16:00 History of Science
  • Science Stats

    Boot camp bug

    The U.S. military has been fighting a battle with a common virus. Adenoviruses, which cause respiratory illnesses including some colds, plague boot camps. In the past, the viruses have infected 80 percent or more of new soldiers, spawning a potentially fatal flulike illness in some. A vaccine kept the virus in check for two decades but was discontinued in 1996, after a dispute between its...

    07/27/2014 - 10:00 Health
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Stuff Matters’ explores the science behind everyday objects

    Stuff Matters Mark MiodownikHoughton Mifflin Harcourt, $26

    To capture tiny flecks of comet dust whizzing through space, NASA scientists on the 1999 Stardust mission turned to silica aerogel. Aerogel’s fine, glassy skeleton brought cosmic particles traveling at 18,000 kilometers per hour to a dead stop without damaging them, trapping the raw components of the solar system and...

    07/26/2014 - 16:00 Materials
  • Screentime

    An app to track firefly flashings

    A firefly flashing at dusk is an iconic sign of summer. Now you can enjoy these light shows and contribute to science at the same time with a firefly tracking app.

    There are around 2,000 species of these luminescent beetles, which light up the twilight with yellow, greenish or amber light. Scientists at Clemson University in South Carolina are concerned that firefly populations might be...

    07/26/2014 - 09:22 Science & Society, Animals
  • Letters to the Editor


    Scrutinizing screening

    Guidelines for breast cancer screening are being questioned as new research reveals the pitfalls of mammography as a screening tool. Laura Beil discussed false positives, overdiagnosis and other concerns regarding cancer detection in “To screen or not to screen” (SN: 6/28/14, p. 22).

    Readers responded passionately, sometimes angrily, to the idea of reducing...

    07/25/2014 - 16:30 Science & Society
  • Editor's Note

    Listening in on cosmic messages

    When astronomy writer Christopher Crockett describes what a fast radio burst is like, he offers a whistle that swoops in pitch from high to low. “If you could hear the signal, that’s what it would sound like,” he says. He is quick to explain, though, that the eight mysterious pulses detected by two radio telescopes are actually not sounds at all. Fast radio bursts are light waves in the radio...

    07/25/2014 - 16:30 Astronomy
  • Feature

    Searching for distant signals

    View interactive map

    Duncan Lorimer wasn’t looking for an eruption of radio waves from another galaxy. He and his student David Narkevic were mining old data from Australia’s Parkes Radio Telescope for oddly behaving pulsars, the rapidly spinning cores of dead massive stars. Instead, they found a strange burst of radio noise recorded in 2001 that appeared to originate well beyond one of...

    07/25/2014 - 15:55 Astronomy
  • Science Visualized

    Wonders of the northern lights

    Tens of kilometers above the icy waterfalls surrounding Iceland’s Kirkjufell Mountain, Earth’s magnetic field drags electrons from the sun to their visually stunning demise. The zooming particles collide with nitrogen and oxygen in the upper atmosphere, an interaction that produces a brilliant blue-green light show called an aurora.

    Photographer Nicholas Roemmelt captured this scene on a...

    07/25/2014 - 09:56 Earth
  • Chemical evidence paved way for discovery of early life

    Clues to Life's Origin — Chemical clues to the origin of life have been found in billion-year-old rocks from Michigan…. Drs. Barghoorn, Schopf and Meinschein found porphyrins related to chlorophyll and hemoglobin, microfossils and optically active hydrocarbons in shale from the Nonesuch formation....  The molecules the scientists have found in the...

    07/24/2014 - 17:09 Evolution, Molecular Evolution